A recent human resources study found that an alarming 70 percent of workers feel disengaged from their jobs. A big reason for this, the researchers found, was that just 34 percent of the 700 workers who participated in the study feel confident in the future of the organization they worked in.
Sure, we know we can blame the struggles of the economy for people feeling down about their jobs and their future. It’s tough to pick up a newspaper or turn on the TV without hearing about some business going under. Worse, with companies making cuts in everything from health care benefits and 401(k) contributions to training budgets, folks likely feel like just another number in the eyes of their employers. But as the owner of a company with 350 employees, I find it personally depressing to think that 70 percent of our country’s workforce might literally be sleepwalking through their jobs. That’s not good for business and it’s not good for the employees. But what are we supposed to do about it?
The good news is that there is plenty you can do about tackling this problem. The answer begins by building a company culture that actively cultivates employee engagement. Trust me, I know what I’m talking about. My company, Beryl, which my two brothers and I co-founded back in 1985, is a souped-up call center that helps connects hospitals with their patients. And if you know anything about the call center business, you know its rife with turnover: People are usually so disengaged, they can’t wait to find another job.
My brothers and I came to understand this challenge early on, which is why we have devoted ourselves to the study and implementation of a company-wide culture that embraces fun and creativity as a way to stimulate engagement and loyalty among our associates. We even created and trademarked a concept we call “the circle of growth,” which, put simply, states that the more engaged your employees are, the more loyal your customers are, and the more profitable your business becomes. To put that another way, not only do we at Beryl—which has won nine “best workplace” awards—have far lower turnover rates than our competition, we also are more profitable. All because we invest in getting our employees engaged in the business.
But building employee engagement doesn’t require magic or even a lot of capital. What it does require is a heck of a lot of communication. Kick-starting “the circle of growth,” then, begins with these three basic steps:
1. Make employees feel secure. It’s critical to let employees know that you believe in them, especially in tough times. That means you need to be constantly communicating how valuable their contributions are to the company.
2. Stick to your company’s core values. All of us respond better when we’re tackling something that has a purpose larger than ourselves. That’s why it becomes essential to continually communicate your organization’s mission, vision, and values as a way to inspire and bond everyone to a meaningful cause.
3. You’re in this together. While it might be hard to see it now, tough times always make us stronger. You need to work on getting that message across to every member of your organization while also giving them the confidence to begin identifying all the opportunities the company has rather than just the threats.
I’ll be the first to admit that building a culture of engagement is not an easy fix: It’s going to take commitment, mistakes, hard work, and yes, plenty of fun. It also helps to have someone to call on for advice and suggestions. That’s why I’ve decided to make this column a regular feature where I’ll explore everything from what it takes to lead an engaged workforce to some of the developments emerging from the Small Giants Community, an entrepreneur leadership group I founded. I look forward to hearing your own comments and suggestions. I’ll meet you here next time to discuss.